11 JUNE 2015
Nurses for the Rights of the Child supports the genital autonomy rights of Chase Hironimus, a healthy 4.5 year old boy from Florida, USA. Chase’s human rights are in jeopardy following a bitter family court dispute surrounding a parenting agreement which was drawn up after Chase was born. This parenting agreement included the option for a medically unnecessary circumcision desired by the father. The circumcision was not performed during Chase’s infancy. Later, his mother Heather researched circumcision and became aware that it was not medically recommended and that it had risks generally and specifically with regard to her son, who had reacted adversely to anesthetic in the past and who develops keloids. Heather was imprisoned until she agreed to sign a circumcision consent form, which she did while bound in handcuffs and crying. Nurses for the Rights of the Child condemns the actions of Judge Jeffrey Gillen on this matter and notes that this forced consent was done under duress, which is unacceptable and contrary to the principles of informed consent.
We call on nurses who may be asked to assist with the proposed circumcision of Chase to demonstrate moral courage by taking conscientious objector status.
The Association of Women’s Health Obstetric and Neonatal Nursing (AWHONN) supports nurses’ rights to conscientious objection and recommends that every institution have a written policy protecting these rights and making reasonable accommodations for nurses with such objections. It also says that taking a conscientious objector position “…should not jeopardize a nurse’s employment, nor should nurses be subjected to harassment due to such a refusal.”
The Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses in Canada states: “Ethical (or moral) courage is exercised when a nurse stands firm on a point of moral principle or a particular decision about something in the face of overwhelming fear or threat to himself or herself. [… T]he nurse should discuss with supervisors, [or] employers […] what types of care she or he finds contrary to his or her own beliefs and values (e.g., caring for individuals having an abortion, male circumcision, blood transfusion, organ transplantation) and request that his or her objections be accommodated, unless it is an emergency situation”.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Performing an action that violates one’s conscience undermines one’s sense of integrity and self-respect and produces guilt, remorse, or shame. Integrity is valuable, and harms associated with the loss of self-respect should be avoided.”
If you are a nurse in moral distress about assisting with Chase’s proposed circumcision or any non-therapeutic circumcision, please contact Nurses for the Rights of the Child via www.ChildRightsNurses.org. We can assist you with resources and support regarding conscientious objection and refer you to legal support if needed.
You are not alone.
Nurses for the Rights of the Child is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of infants and children to bodily integrity. As health professionals, we specifically seek to protect non-consenting infants and children from surgical alteration of their healthy genitals.
Nurses for the Rights of the Child was founded in June of 1995 by a group of nurses who had become R.N. Conscientious Objectors to infant circumcision at St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico.